Maureen Doallas is one of our regular contributors to the Tweetspeak Poetry-sponsored poetry jams on Twitter. She writes beautiful words, and not just poetry. She blogs at Writing Without Paper, where she covers poetry, art and culture in general – and covers them comprehensively and with great depth and insight.
Below are two of Maureen’s poems. One was written for her brother, Patrick William Doallas, who died of cancer on May 5, 2009. This poem was read at his funeral mass. The other was written as a “place” or “address” poem for a recent Random Act of Poetry challenge at the High Callings Blogs, but it is actually an elegy for her father.
For National Poetry Month, two beautiful poems by Maureen Doallas.
Reunions: Brother, May 5, 2009
I won’t know the details
to play back your timeline.
Not the hour of death. Maybe not the place.
Certainly not the words you couldn’t say.
You won’t be buried on a hill
where water runs down, not into, hallowed ground.
Rules binding grief are for the living
not the dead.
I won’t be able to find you
in the oldest part of the cemetery
since the Civil War.
Your wife won’t get a folded flag.
We won’t hear Taps
or the snap-to volleys of 21-gun salutes.
You won’t have a headstone
remarking the deaths of the brother and sister
none of us knew.
You won’t lie next to Audie Murphy.
The battle you fought won’t be documented.
You didn’t die because of wounds
suffered in military action.
Your full name won’t go on a v-shaped wall
where widows rub paper on reflective stone,
daughters tell of beaus, and sons just want to forget.
You were 4F when your brother,
two years older, was crashing APCs
and dodging agent orange.
You were nobody prominent: Not an explorer
or a president. Not a general or an admiral.
Not a Supreme Court justice. Not a literary
or medical figure. Not a minority.
And never a famous woman.
You were nobody found deserving of honors.
You are just somebody I love.
© Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Reunions: Father July 18, 1990
Scene 1: 2909 North Nottingham Street
The clock set at 4:15 p.m.
Before 4:30 I lost you
in a chiming of ever-closer sirens.
From you to phone to glass door I
watched for that blur of red
— rose-deep, a harder color than I want to remember —
screaming to come clear.
Help in a red and white wagon pushing
for last tries before unlasting breaths.
The pulse punishes the memory, the adrenaline
maxing out when you need it most.
The noise was a pain.
Everywhere for seven minutes before
then suddenly here where it had to be.
My hands to my ears,
automatic-like, did no one any good.
I didn’t expect the rescue in front of me to go bad.
I didn’t want to be in control
Of a 63-year-old woman panicking
and my not-yet two-year-old urging,
Grandpa get up! Grandpa get up!
This is the part
of the parts I never reacted to:
How a half-dozen volunteers arrived
in less than eight minutes
How they rolled up a corner
of the antique Persian carpet
How they pulled you
from the bathroom where you collapsed
to the place we call the living room
Where they used mouth-to-mouth
— so much better were they than I —
and shot you up to trick your heart into rising again
How they couldn’t wait
to stash the detritus of their care
How I couldn’t wipe away the sticky pool of cells
absorbing our newly refinished floor
How it was over
and then just began
A neighbor I had not let in
saying, Go. Don’t give it any mind.
I’ll take care of it. And the baby.
(Did I forget about the baby?)
Scene 2: 1701 North George Mason Drive
I, in front with the driver,
you, Dad, in back,
an EMT still doing his best
to keep your beat to the beat.
In Emergency, before I quit
telling them I couldn’t sign any papers,
you, alone in some cubicle with a doctor
making decisions of his own, were already gone.
Kept busy answering for information
not one of us had, I cycled all the numbers
from Jacksonville, to Venice, and Ft. Myers, Florida
to Indiana, Kentucky, and Bethpage, Tennessee
Startled into starting all over again
when a nurse hushed us to a private room.
The news was changed.
I couldn’t have prepared for
the difference I saw
Cleaned up, that sheet of antiseptic white
giving no hint of the way
your chest had been pounded.
Lifelines removed, your eyes stiller,
the curtains on their rolling rings
shutting in a private moment
A wife somewhere carrying on.
We were together
one last time before our last time.
How much time
was enough time
to be with you?
Cases waited. They needed the space.
Someone asked about organ donations.
Someone else said you were too old
To give up
anything but your corneas.
I asked what you’d want. Your license didn’t say.
On the way out I took in hand
a brown paper bag, more fragile than the satchel
we lug groceries in. More plain than the kind for tidying
papers we bundle every Wednesday.
T-shirt. Socks (no match: you were color-blind).
Black shoes? (A guess.) Belt. Billfold.
Watch worn since retirement.
What I have of you still
I hold in safe-keeping
Your watch keeping its own time.
© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.